I Got a Coach! Now What?

Things you wish you knew before getting your first learning session.

Yovita Irsad
Bukalapak Design

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Having a clear and visible design documentation is one of many skills that a Product Designer should have. I was a multimedia and graphic designer before joining Bukalapak, and I created design documentation solely for myself, because my clients only care to see the final outcome. But now, I need to create design documentation from the beginning so that anyone who sees it can easily explore and understand my work.

Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

During my time at Bukalapak, my design documentation has always made sense… to me. But to other stakeholders, it’s difficult to navigate when looking for a specific screen or flow. So, how do I begin to make my design documentation better?

As part Bukalapak Design’s team coaching program, I was paired with one of our talented Senior Product Designers, Alim Akhsan, who helped guide me on how to structure my design documentation and help me find the best documentation format to be implemented at my future project.

After each coaching session, my design documentation steadily improved; my stakeholders were quick to notice and gave me positive feedback. Given the positive outcome from my coaching program, I wanted to share some advice for ways to optimise your coaching or mentorship experience.

1. Do your “homework”

Before the first coaching session, I dug around on Figma to find my coach’s design files. I studied how he named and structured his Figma pages, as well as how he laid out each frame to visually display his design flow and interactions. I observed every little detail.

Source: Giphy

Why do this? Not only do you want to be prepared, but it is also nice to make your coach feel appreciated by taking the time to get to know them through their work. This way, you won’t feel as nervous or awkward during the first session since you will already have some talking points. This also means that you will already have a list of questions from observing their work first, which will make the session more interactive.

2. Clarify and align your goals with your coach/mentor

One thing I appreciated from my coach was how he led our first meeting by discussing both our expectations from the engagement. He shared his hope that I would learn to instinctively create a clean documentation format for every project of mine. He also encouraged me to share my thoughts honestly and not to be scared to ask any questions.

I shared similar expectations for him to not hesitate to give me homework that I need to do before each session begins, and to help me understand the basics of design documentation so I can have a template that I can implement for my future projects.

3. Empty your cup

Classic yet powerful. But the key is to empty your “glass” and seek out the “water” from your mentor to fill it in. You have to think that your mentor is the only source of it. “If I don’t learn from him now, I won’t get his knowledge anywhere else”, is a perspective I adopted. That frame of mind motivated me to do my best preparation before each session began. Remember, you must always stay hungry and eager to learn.

Why do I keep up this mindset? Because I know if I don’t admit that I don’t understand and decide to google it afterwards, I’m not making the most out of my coaching program.

The benefit of interactive sessions like coaching or mentoring is that you can ask a lot of questions, and the majority of your questions will be addressed based on your mentor’s experience rather than on theoretical information that is available on the internet.

Fill your cup with your mentor’s knowledge and experience. It’s gold!

4. Ask the right question

You can’t go wrong by asking questions, and it costs you nothing. Even if you ask a dumb question, your mentor should not react negatively because they know you’re there to learn.

I previously mentioned at the first point that observe my mentor’s Figma documentation and from that, I had a lot of questions that I had gathered. I ask these question during the coaching session with the aim of deepening my understanding of the topic.

Source: Giphy

In order to have a deep understanding, I need to ask questions that help me to dive deeper into my coach’s mindset. For example, instead of asking “what should I do to document the design better”, I would ask something like “why do you make the documentation format this way? what are your considerations? What learnings in the past made you decide to on this presentation format?”. Change the perspective from focusing the questions on “how can he help me” to a question about my coach so that I can dive deeper into his experience and mindset.

I’m hoping that the answers to these questions allow me to implement a documentation format that, at the very least, matches the quality of my mentor’s documentation. I learned to ask these kinds of questions based on the “under the water line” questions from the iceberg model. In short, the model focuses on uncovering the way people think or feel so we can develop a deeper understanding.

Please be mindful to state your intention clearly before asking those kind of questions, because some people might misunderstand and feel offended if you come across as challenging them.

5. Let your coach or mentor know how you think

Every session, I always got homework. When I deliver the homework, I always share my thought process. It’s not just “yes, I put the screen like this, then the variations are here” but more like “I put a table of contents with shortcut links to the respective sections so that people can have a preview of what they can expect to find and to easily navigate to the screens. I actually had some doubts about whether this method was correct, because I wasn’t sure if people would notice or use it. So I applied a contrast color to grab people’s attention once they land on this page” Literally, thinking out loud.

You may feel like you’re talking too much, but this is what coaching/mentoring is all about. Coaches need to understand how we think, identify issues and solve them. Or how we determine that a particular action is the right step towards solving a problem we’re facing. Even sometimes we can just figure out the answer to our questions just by talking to our coach, without him answering our questions. This happen because sometimes, all we need to do is let our thoughts out verbally, and this method is called rubber duck.

One of the fundamental purposes of a coaching or mentorship program is to learn about other ways of thinking, and how to apply it to different problems. As long as I am open with sharing my process, I know I will get the most relevant feedback to help me better understand how to approach similar situations.

Takeaway

Overall, my experience with the coaching program was successful and smooth, mostly because my coach and I were aligned on how we wanted to cooperate. With me realizing it at first, my coach had gradually boosted my self-confidence with every session.

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For those of you who are or will be taking part in a learning program, whether it’s mentorship, courses, webinars or bootcamp — keep your spirits up! Don’t be afraid to ask questions; don’t feel little, don’t feel inferior. Focus on learning the basics first. Instead of immediately learning to make a boat, start learning to make a raft first. Think about why the raft can float, why it doesn’t sink, or how can we make the raft safe and not leak? Once you have learned the fundamentals of the why and the how, you will ace the session.

Thank you too those of you who took the time to read about my journey. I hope that the learnings I’ve shared could be of help to you. Adjust as necessary, and good luck!

Source: giphy

Special thanks to:

  • Alim Akhsan and Meiga Tutiarta, for encouraging me to share my coaching experience and helping me to review this article.
  • Shannon Angdrea, for encouraging me to write this article in English and helped me to improve this article.
  • Erick Gustianto Dwiputra and Zain Nabih, for helping me to find a perfect title for this article.

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